In Matthew 13 Jesus says something that initially almost sounds like (if we're honest) gibberish. His disciples ask him why he teaches in parables - which are more than just stories told to teach. They're meant to be slightly confusing. It's not a bad question the disciples ask - why confuse the audience? Jesus responds with this (probably) unexpected answer: "This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." Why would he say this?
It's almost funny to think of the many well intentioned teachers I've heard through the years trying to iron this one statement out - making it wrinkle free for us who grew up in a culture that promoted certainty and complete understanding at all costs. "Well, what Jesus really meant..." "The gospel was only for the Jews...he was sending them the real message in secret code while confounding the gentiles..." (sounds like Jesus, doesn't it?).
Here's the take we've been discussing at Beggars Table. What if rather than an undesirable place to be while listening to Jesus teach, this is, in fact, exactly where Jesus wants us? What if the best posture in front of God is to see/hear but not understand? What if Jesus wanted his hearers to not "get it"...at least immediately?
Think about it - chances are you have run into a circumstance when you saw or heard something and didn't "get it". How you react to that situation says a lot about you. You basically have two choices - one is the choice of narcissism and one is the choice of humility.
You can either act as the final arbiter of what's good for you and simply decide not to engage. This is the reaction of narcissism. It names you as the final judge of all that's good and beneficial.
Or you can react out of humility - recognizing something attractive in the "not knowing" itself. Recognizing that perhaps there is something true and needed for you exactly because you don't immediately get it. When we respond this way to the confusing story/picture/movie/teaching, then we begin a process of willful attentiveness...training ourselves in profound presence by learning to ask questions, becoming still, and exercising our minds and imagination. Perhaps this is exactly where Jesus wanted his audience and perhaps this is still the invitation for us today.